Lacey Cope, USA: AUBG Is an Eclectic School Full of Possibilities

In Spring 2012, Lacey received AUBG's highest honor - the Presidential Medal.

I quicken my steps as I hear the first sounds of the gajda preparing to launch into a melody. It is twilight and I’m walking through the woodlands, being careful not to trip over the redwood trees’ roots that have managed to push through the dirt. I hear the tambura, gadulka, and tupan begin to play along. I cannot wait to reach the dance hall and join the line – I can already tell it is a pajdushko, one of my favorite rhythms to dance. As I burst into the room, I am overwhelmed with happiness at being surrounded by friends and family who share my passion for Balkan folk culture.

This is a common scene from my childhood. My father is a multi-instrumentalist who was very involved in the formation of the Eastern European Folklife Center (EEFC), a nonprofit organization that celebrates and teaches folk music and dance. Every summer, the EEFC organizes week-long workshops to educate people about the traditions of the Balkans. It is through these workshops that I discovered my passions: clarinet, saxophone, singing, and dance. It was through this connection to the Balkans that I was able to travel to Bulgaria with my family in the summer of 2005. We went to immerse ourselves in folk culture at the Koprivshtitsa festival and wound up falling in love with the people. Ever since I returned home from that trip, I have dreamed of the day I could return to Bulgaria.

Lacey sings a Bulgarian folk song at the Orphanage Christmas Concert

The road that led me to finally attending AUBG was lengthy. Initially, I stumbled upon the school while looking up summer or semester-long volunteer programs in the area, specifically working in orphanages. By chance, I found an article describing a partnership between students at the American University in Bulgaria and a local orphanage. Upon doing further research, I became more impressed by the institution and all it had to offer and decided it was where I needed to study. Because my home university, San Francisco State, denied me spending a semester abroad at a non-sponsored school, I made the decision to apply independently as a visiting student. At the same time I completely readjusted my life goals and decided not to pursue nursing, as had been my original plan. With newly aligned priorities, I also decided to take a leap of faith and transfer to AUBG.

Singing with fellow AUBGers at the Bulgarian Cultural evening in November 2009

After being accepted to AUBG as a regular student, the months leading up to my departure from California were full of mixed emotions and second-guessing. Though my friends and family were supportive of my decision, saying goodbye was bittersweet. Immediately after arriving here, I felt confident I had made the right choice. The overabundance of extracurricular activities available enticed me to become very plugged into the community. Every day of the week, I am committed to rehearsals and meetings for the Better Community Club, Musical, AUBG Choir, and the “Biser” Ensemble.  Being so involved has led me to some incredible experiences so far, including traveling to Kemer, Turkey with the choir in early November. Not only did we win second place in the international choir competition, but I also got the opportunity to bond with a diverse, talented, and impressive group within the larger AUBG community.

Aside from the groups I am already involved with, there are many more I look forward to joining. For example, recently I helped organize the incredibly successful Bulgarian Language and Culture Evening. I anticipate my continued involvement with increasing students’ awareness of the rich folklore surrounding us here in Blagoevgrad, especially in the fields of music and dance. AUBG is such an eclectic school full of possibilities for the future. I cannot help but continue to be thankful for the decision I made and for the new horizons of opportunities presented to me since coming here.

Blagoevgrad 2009 

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